The mile: a twenty-year PB

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Monday’s wonderfully-titled Self-Transcendence 3 x 1 Mile relay was organised by the Sri Chimnoy running club in Battersea Park.

Sri Chimnoy himself was that familiar type, a spiritual leader from India who travelled to the West. But whereas others of that ilk played the sitar, collected Rolls Royces by the dozen, etc, Chimnoy devoted himself to the nobler task of transcending his ego through running: managing for example 7 marathons and 2 ultra-marathons at age 48. (The only person I know who tops that was Jimmy Saville, with his 200 marathons in 30 years, maybe he too should have offered his services as a religious guru…)

Anyway, the route is an 800 metres-out and a 800 metres-back, run along the long straight road at the south end of Battersea Park guarded by plane tress.

It’s August now and the nights are already longer than they were and the evenings shorter. The race began at 7, ending thirty minutes later in the approaching dusk. There was even time for a sudden, passing shower.

I was lucky to be running with John and Alice, two fellow Mornington Chasers, for a team we named “Mornington Chasers Red”. Other Chasers included a men’s group led off by Ian Gordon, our sub-2:15 half-miler, their team finishing fifth in the men’s relay, and a women’s Chasers over-50s team who beat not just all the other women, but also all the men in their age group.

John led us off in 5:14, with Alice running her mile in just a fraction over 7 minutes. John’s face at the end was a study in determination (it reminded me of a story told about Steve Prefontaine, that he knew he wasn’t the fastest runner on the track, but he also knew that there wasn’t another runner in the world who could bear pain better than he could).

By the time I began I was about 50 metres behind the next runner, and I settled into a pace which was intended to shield the calf injury I’ve been feeling – off and on – all summer. A runner in his twenties overtook me at about 200 metres, and for the next kilometre I settled into his pace, leaving him to pull me round the course.

A quick look at my watch at the halfway point showed that I ran the first 800 metres in about 3:10.

Through the return half my calf was horribly sore, but I comforted myself with the words John had spoken to me – not altogether seriously – before I started. “This time, David”, he said (two of my last runs having ended Did No Finish), “you’d better not stop, even if you’re injured.”

At around a kilometre, I seemed to overtake around a dozen runners.

And then with about 200 metres to go, I was passed by a runner in a white vest. Furious, I kicked back at him, allowing my stride to lengthen (probably too long) and letting my feet race towards the end. He finished three metres ahead of me.

I ran 5:52 for my mile leg; which translates to a 66.61% age related time. Just to give you a sense of how fast this is – for me – it narrowly beats any race I’ve run over the past 10 years, at any of the recorded distances I’ve run from 5k to a marathon.

Not having run a timed mile since my teens, I declare it a 20-year pb.

Did I transcend myself? I don’t know; right now, I feel sore but happy.

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